College Admissions: There is a Light at the End of the Tunnel

College Admissions: There is a Light at the End of the Tunnel

  Want to know your chances? Find out here.   This is my favorite time of year as a college counselor. The acceptance letters are rolling in, and my inbox is flooded with messages like: WOOHOO!!! They said YES! CANNOT BELIEVE THIS! THEY SAID YES! I got in!!!!!!!! I love seeing the hard work pay off and so many dreams coming true. It is what makes the whole struggle worth it. Back in December there were many late nights, both for the students I work with and for me. There were dozens of essays to go through and strict deadlines to meet. It was a hustle, and it is every year. It’s the nature of this process. It’s a lot of stress, trying to sum up one’s life into a few pieces of paper and send it off for evaluation. It feels like the results will make or break your future. I’ve been with my students when they’ve started to scream or cry, too scared to move forward. But in 100% of cases, somehow, we’ve made it through, and there is an excited email I get at this time of year confirming that everything worked out. Every year, I tell my students not to stress out too much – it will be okay. And every year they get stressed out anyway. But stress melts away as fast as it came, and come the spring and acceptance letters, they forget. If you’re a junior right now, take these words to heart: you will get through this too. Next spring, you will be the one sending me an excited email saying...
The Shocking Truth About College Interviews

The Shocking Truth About College Interviews

Want to know your chances? Find out here.     I get it; interviews are scary. It is an hour in front of someone judging you, and I can understand being nervous. As a former Harvard interviewer, though, I’d tell you to relax. Interviews are not nearly as terrifying as they sound, and if you follow a few basic tips, you’ll do great. Interviews are conversations The best interviews don’t feel like interviews; they are conversations. You want to ask just as many questions of your interviewer are they do of you and just let the conversation flow. Remember that most interviewers are alumni volunteers, and they volunteer to do this because they loved their experience at their school and want to encourage other people to make the same choice. If you give them the opportunity to talk about their experience, they will love that (and by extension think more favorably about you). What to ask The more questions you have prepared, the easier it will be to stay in a conversation. Use your questions as a springboard to get your interviewer to tell you more about the college you are applying to and to talk about their experience and reflections. I highly recommend asking questions like: Why did you choose your school? How did you choose your major? What was most surprising to you when you got to college? What was your favorite class? Did you build close relationships with your professors? Did you make lifelong friends in college? Did you live on-campus or off-campus, and what was that like? Did you feel the student body was diverse?...
How to Master the Common App’s Extracurricular Section

How to Master the Common App’s Extracurricular Section

  What Major Best Fits Your Personality? Find out here.   A lackluster extracurricular list can keep you out of many selective colleges so figuring out how to best present yourself is a must. With all the attention put on the college essay, the extracurricular part of the Common Application is often overlooked. But before you rush through it, make sure to consider the following four extracurricular list essentials: Quantity Some people swear that the number of extracurricular activities you do doesn’t matter. They insist that doing a few things well is better than doing a million things on a surface level. While I’m not a proponent of sending in a list of 30+ activities (at that point, it can just be annoying to the admissions officers!), most accepted students to the most elite colleges fill in 8-10 activities on the common application. That is not to say that there aren’t accepted students with fewer extracurricular activities that get in for their academic/personal accomplishments or who stand out so strongly in the few extracurricular activities they have that it compensates for a lower quantity, but in general, a fuller extracurricular list makes for a stronger application. If finding 8-10 extracurricular activities seems hard, think back to everything you’ve participated in over the past four years. Keep in mind that you can write down your summer activities, volunteering work (even if you only did it once for a few days), school clubs, local clubs, political activism, sports both in and out of school, music, theater, art, employment, as well as unstructured activities like baking, reading, and teaching yourself how to play the...
How to Find the Perfect Topic for Your College Essay: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Find the Perfect Topic for Your College Essay: A Step-by-Step Guide

Want to know your chances? Find out here.     There are endless things you can worry about when it comes to your college applications, but for some reason it is the college essay that often seems to cause the most anxiety among the students I work with. In many ways, this doesn’t surprise me. The essay is, without a doubt, the most subjective part of your application. You can understand what a 620 means on the math section of the SAT and you have some sense of what a 3.6 GPA means. The difference between a good essay and a bad essay can be much harder to define and different people may even have starkly different opinions about whether your essay is effective. No matter what topic you choose or how many people you ask to look your essay over, there is some element of insecurity many students feel about their essays when they hit the submit button. You will hear a lot of advice from the “experts” when it comes to the admissions essay. Some people will tell you the best essays vividly tell a story, others will tell you that you need to have a clear opening point and multiple supporting examples, and some say the only effective essays are the ones that showcase a hook. I don’t believe there is one right formula for the essay. The most effective essays I’ve read are the ones that elevate the application by bringing it to life. How do you do that? The key is to read your application as a stranger. Pretend You Aren’t You The first...
The Secret to Standing Out

The Secret to Standing Out

Want to know your chances? Find out here.   Want to know a secret? It is not hard to stand out. You’ve been told that only the really special kids get into the Ivy League and other top colleges. They are the kids who have done ridiculously incredible things. Perhaps they’ve won the Olympics or got the first prize in a national physics competition. You don’t think you’re a genius or an athletic champion so you are just stuck applying with the rest of the masses and hoping you get lucky, right? Wrong. You have the power within yourself to make your application shine. “You don’t even know me!” you’re probably thinking. Well it doesn’t matter if I know you or not because I’ve never met a student who I thought didn’t have the ability to stand out if they wanted it badly enough. I don’t care if you don’t have a lot of money. I don’t care if your school doesn’t offer many extracurricular activities.­ I don’t care if your parents didn’t sign you up for soccer camp or violin lessons as a kid. You don’t need any of that. All you need is the ambition and drive to do something, to start something, or to lead something. Colleges want enterprising people. They want people that can have an idea and then make it happen. There are a 10,000 ways to make something happen, and many of them aren’t even that hard. They do, however, require you to take a moment to think for yourself, step out of your comfort zone, and do something different than what you’ve...
Will You Get In? How to Assess Your Odds of Admission

Will You Get In? How to Assess Your Odds of Admission

 Want to know your chances? Find out here.   The most common question students ask me is: Do I have what it takes to get in? It is a tough question to answer because the American admissions process is complicated. Your admission to college is based on more than grades and test scores. College admissions is not an entirely objective process which means I can’t just look at the data and tell you your odds. You may find this frustrating, but in some ways, it is liberating. You are not entirely limited by your grades and scores. If you can make yourself stand out in other ways, you may be able to transcend a slight quantitative weakness. Of course, the flip side of that coin is that perfect grades and top scores are no guarantee of acceptance. So how do you figure out where you stand? You can’t entirely know, but asking yourself some of the questions below will help you get an idea. GPA The first thing to ask is whether your GPA is above or below average for the school. Unless you feel you have something else significant that will stand out in your application (e.g. extensive awards, standout extracurricular activities, or a compelling personal story) or you fit into a flagged category (under-represented minority, legacy, or recruited athlete), aim to be above average for most of the schools on your list. You can find the average GPA for most schools listed on the admissions section of their websites or in the US News and World Report rankings. Academic Challenge Top colleges are looking for students who...